August 2020 Writing Challenge Week 5

Hosted by @ryan.ewing.writing on Instagram 

August 2020 Writing Challenge  Last 3 Days!

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August 29th, 2020

How would your MCs deal with someone bullying their child (if they had one)?

Cinderella would have the most obvious reaction.  After all, the child is likely to be a future monarch, and any disrespect to the child would be disrespect for the kingdom’s reputation.  She is likely to have intelligence reports on what her child does and who her child speaks to at all times (yes, she would probably be an overbearing mother).  Due to this, she would know instantly who bullied her child.  And then she would send someone to find out what crimes that family were committing. Once she found evidence of criminal activity, she would make sure the family in question would lose all political, social, and economic power.

Merrick, and his familiar Nisha, would do things a bit more in the dark – and quite literally in the shadows.  One of Merrick’s first uses of magic is to use a person’s shadow to yank them off their feet.  If he does this at the right location and with the right timing, Merrick or Nisha could create a situation in which a few bones were broken. Or if the bully was a child carrying or standing near something valuable, he could frame that child for breaking that item.  Essentially, he can turn the harassment back around on the bully of his child.  If his child also winds up with dark magic, he could spend the time to have his child take revenge for himself rather than involving Merrick in the matter, which would be more fitting for Merrick’s future path as a judge-mage for the dark god.

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August 30th, 2020

Write a scene: Your MCs in Court

YA Fantasy

Merrick felt the fog drifting around his ankles and rising to his calves, sending cold spirals of shivers up his spine.  The echoes of power in the fog let him know it was the work of the dark god.

He looked up into the endless grey and followed the grey cat who beckoned him with a yowl.  After walking through the swirls of mist and fog, Merrick began to see the glow of a lantern.  The cat meowed and leapt ahead, rushing towards its master.

Once he was close enough, Merrick could see the towering figure in a grey robe, carrying a lantern in one hand.  Tucked into his belt was a small farming sickle. According to the history and religion textbooks, the sickle could expand in size, and the god of death used it to cut the connection between the body and soul when it came time for a person to die.

The Grey God noticed where Merrick’s attention was focused.  A chuckle exited the shadowed hood.

“Don’t worry, I don’t personally reap souls very often.  It’s too much work for a single god to do. I summon the dead to the shadow realm and put them on trial here rather than head topside to hunt them down.  It’s much more efficient. And at the rate mortals die, I’m afraid I must be efficient.”

Merrick thought of his own experience with trials, and he shuddered at the memory of the interrogations held by the temple priests and the mages who followed the flame god.  The “trial” they put on was nothing but a sham with trumped up charges to instill fear into the heart of others at the mere mention of magic users with a dark element affinity.’

“That was a travesty, not a trial,” the Grey God interrupted Merrick’s thoughts.  He turned and began walking away.

“Come,” the god ordered.  “I will show you what a trial should look like.  Then you may return to the land of the living to become a judge for me.”

Merrick swallowed down his protest at the god’s career choice for him.  Considering the Grey God had summoned Merrick to the shadow realm, the land of the dead, and Merrick didn’t know how to return, he simply followed behind the god.

The fog began to clear, and a cold throne room appeared out of the mist.  The throne was made of obsidian, with large abnormally clear shards growing out of the corners, as if the darkness in those shards had leached down into the throne itself. The Grey God hung the lantern on one of these crystal outgrowths, then sat on the throne. 

He pointed at a spot next to the throne, indicating where he wanted Merrick to stand. As soon as the teenager took his place, a door appeared out of the mists, and a person stumbled into the throne room, as if they were shoved by some great force.

The person picked themselves up, and dusted off the knees of their pants.  When the person looked up, Merrick could see he was a common villager.  The person froze when he recognized the figure on the throne, and he started to back away in panic.

The mist swirling around the man solidified into shackles. 

Merrick saw the fear in the man’s eyes and he wondered if every soul was treated this way.

“Not every soul, just the ones who want to run.” 

Merrick looked down at a voice which came from an unexpected source – the Grey God’s cat, who was curled up at the foot of the throne.

“Brevon Heiff, you have reached the end of your life,” The Grey God addressed the struggling soul.

The man finally stopped pulling at the shackles around his wrists and looked between the Grey God and Merrick.

“What is going on? Is this some sort of sick joke? Let me go!  I have a family who needs me!”

The light in the god’s lantern flashed blue, and Merrick glanced up to look at it.  The previously clear crystal shard it sat on now looked as if it was filled with a bit of smoke or fog.

The Grey God showed no reaction to the flashing lantern or the change in his throne.

“Why are you kidnapping people?  I ain’t got no money, and I’ve never hurt nobody in my life!”  The man insisted, staring straight at the hooded figure on the throne.

The lantern flashed again, and the crystals grew darker.  The Grey God still showed no response, but the fog around the room started to creep towards the man.

He pulled at the shackles, trying to get away from the fog.  When it touched his skin, he shuddered visibly.

“Fine, okay, fine!  I hurt somebody. One person.  And it was a long time ago. And besides, he deserved it.  He was flirting with my woman!  How was I supposed to get her to marry me if someone like that guy was always hanging around her?  I sent him away, so what?  She finally got over it and decided to marry me.  And I’ve made her happy.”

The fog slithered up his legs and wrapped around his waist.  The lantern continued to flash, and Merrick watched as the color of the crystals deepened even further.

“Okay, fine!  I killed him!  I killed him and buried him in the ravine.”

The light from the lantern spread out across the throne room, and the crystals turned the same jet black as the rest of the obsidian throne.  The Grey God finally moved.

As the god stood up, he reached for the sickle.  It grew as he gripped it, lengthening both the handle and the blade to a fearsome size.  The God shifted his grip and sliced through the air towards the criminal, who was doing his best to scrabble away, but his escape was stopped by the shackles.

The blade was silent as it approached the man.  Merrick started to close his eyes, not wanting to see the bloody aftermath.

“Open your eyes wide and watch, young judge,” the grey cat commanded from his position at the foot of the throne.  Merrick pried his eyes open again, in time to see the blade reach the man.

Instead of the expected carnage, however, Merrick was met with the sight of the blade passing into the man’s body without harming it.  The prisoner and Merrick both blinked in surprise.

The sickle shrank, and the Grey God placed it back on his belt as he returned to his throne.

“What- What just happened?”  The prisoner asked as he patted his torso, still expecting to find a great wound.

“Your memories of this life will be erased from your soul.  When you are reborn, you will need to make up for the sins you committed in this life,” announced the Grey God.

“Wait – You’re not going to kill me?” the man asked.

“You are already dead.”

“I mean, you aren’t going to erase my soul?”

“Would you like to be erased?”  The sickle reappeared, full sized, and wrapped in shadows so dense Merrick thought he could grab and pull them off the weapon.

“No!” the man frantically shook his head.  Something about the ominous shadows told him that his soul would indeed be erased if they touched him.

“Then take your punishment.  You will be reborn.  In this next lifetime you will encounter the same soul you destroyed.  Your fate is to save that soul.” 

The Grey God’s words echoed in the chamber.  Merrick had a feeling the man would not be willing to give in.

“Why would I ever save him!  I hate his guts!”

“If you cannot save him in this life, your soul’s light will be extinguished for all eternity.”

“But-“ the man’s protest was cut off by the sound of a door opening.  On the opposite side of the room from where he entered, a new door appeared out of the mists.  The man began to be pulled towards the doors, as if he was either being sucked in by a great vacuum or shuttled along by some sort of entity Merrick could not see.

The man was whisked out of the room, and as soon as the doors clanged shut, the lantern on the throne flashed.  Merrick turned around to look at it and observed with interest as the jet black crystals drained to their previous clear state.

The first door opened again, and a young lady appeared in the room.  She, unlike the previous man, did not try to run, but instead looked around her until she recognized the Grey God.  Nervous, she awkwardly performed a curtsy, and then stood with her head nervously bowed. After the silence continued for a while, the lady cleared her throat.

“Um, might I ask, sir, what I’m doing here?”

“You have died, child.”

Surprise washed over the young lady’s face, then he watched as she tried to recall what was happening before she arrived in the throne room.

“My baby!”  The lady shouted as she looked around.  But once she did not see a child accompanying her, she gathered up her courage and hope.

“Please!  Please tell me my baby is alright!”

“Your child is fine. You saved him.  He is safe in the arms of his father.”  The Grey God’s words reassured the lady, and the tension drained out of her shoulders as a smile broke across her face.

“Oh, thank you!  Then everything is good.”

“Do you have any regrets or sins you would like to confess?” The Grey God asked.

Merrick felt his spine tighten, waiting for the lady’s answers and the lantern’s response.

“I’ve got no regrets.  I did what I could.  I found a wonderful man who loved me as much as I loved him.  Sure, we fought sometimes, but that’s part of life.  As long as our baby can grow up happy and healthy, I don’t mind.”

When the lantern remained calm, Merrick let out a sigh of relief.  His eyes returned to the lady who was scratching her head in puzzlement.

“As for sins, I’m sure I wasn’t the best I could be at all times, but I did try to be a good person.  I’d have to admit I got jealous a few times,”  she paused to think some more.  “I remember stealing a bit of cabbage from our neighbor when I was a kid.  I took a great deal of pleasure in bargaining and haggling at the market, and I may have gotten overheated with a few of the insults sometimes.”

Slowly, the lady narrated a bunch of small sins.  And as her list grew longer, Merrick grew more nervous.

The lantern, however, never wavered, and the crystal never darkened.

As the lady finally ran out of things to say, the Grey God stood up.  Unlike the previous trial, this time, the Grey God explained what the sickle would do before he swung the weapon.  The lady’s only response was to ask permission to close her eyes.

After the sickle blade passed through her soul, she departed through the second door.  Merrick watched her walk through the door by herself, no aid needed from the invisible entities, and then turned to the Grey God.

“Is it always like this?”

“Most of the time, yes.  There are very few souls who are so tainted with evil that their existence is detrimental to the world above.”

The Grey God gathered his lantern and began walking, leading the way into the fog and mist once again before continuing.

“Most souls continue to cycle through rebirth with no problem.  Some souls are like that man, and they occasionally make a grave mistake and need to learn a lesson.  Usually their soul retains enough information about their mistake that they can rectify it during the next life.”

“What happens to those who don’t learn their lesson?”

“They come here,” the Grey God said as he waved his hand and the fog parted to reveal a crevasse in the earth, previously hidden by the fog.  He lowered the lantern a bit, showing the depth of the scar in the earth. 

Merrick felt the fog closing in on him, and this time, it felt solid.  He pictured the shackles made out of the fog, but decided to trust the Grey God. After all, this god was the only deity who was willing to aid him when he was so desparate for any kind of magic.  Since the god came into his life, Merrick was now able to wield two kinds of magic, he had gained a new family member in his familiar, found a teacher in Alberic, and made friends at the academy. 

In Merrick’s eyes, the Grey God had never harmed him, and had only given him great gifts.  So he did not resist the rapidly solidifying fog, despite the memory of shackles.

Instead of being bound, Merrick was cradled in the arms of something he could not see as the Grey God and the invisible entity leapt down into the crevasse.  They floated down for several minutes, but Merrick could tell they were moving at a speed far greater than a human could move.

When they reached the bottom of the crevasse, Merrick was greeted by the sight of human bones scattered across a never-ending landscape. 

“What is this place?” he asked, as the entity holding him set him down.

“This is the place where souls fade, never to be born again.”

“I don’t understand.  There’s nothing but bones here.” Merrick said, looking around.

The Grey God lifted his lantern and placed the edge of it against Merrick’s forehead. Merrick blinked, both at the light so close to his eyes, and at the cold touch.  He expected the lantern to be hot from the flame. But it was ice cold instead.

When the lantern moved away from his face, Merrick could see the souls.  Some of them were more solid.  Somehow, Merrick could tell they were newcomers. Others were mere wisps of forms, leaking bits of themselves into the air. 

As he watched, one soul completely dispersed and rose through the air as fog, to join the mists above the crevasse. 

He suddenly understood.  The fog that filled the shadow realm was the remnants of souls who failed to make amends for their mistakes.

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Cinderella Retelling (Rough draft of a scene that may or may not make it into the story)

Cinderella and the crown prince waited for the guards to bring them the traitor.  She stood at the front of the room, framed perfectly by the tall columns supporting the hall’s roof.  Heavy silence seemed to weigh down the nobles who unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of a criminal trial when they anticipated attending a standard ball.

The servants opened the doors to the ball room and announced the entrance of the nobleman everyone was waiting for.  However, unlike his normal entrance into a social event, this time, he was dragged in by two knights. 

The knights held his elbows and walked forward, not caring that he was unable to walk.  Curses spilled out of his mouth as his knees hit the stairs as they descended into the room.  Several ladies gasped and covered their mouths with fans.  Whether they were gasping at the foul things he said or the strange angle of the nobleman’s feet was unclear.

The nobleman seemed to have run out of air as the knights brought him to the crown prince and Cinderella. 

Of course, Cinderella observed, having a trained knight squeeze your elbow joints to the point of breaking would make most people fall silent.

“Do you know why you are here?” asked the crown prince, frowning at the offensive nobleman who’d fallen in a heap to the ground as the knights let go of him.

“Your highness, don’t listen to that witch!  What does a commoner know about the doings of nobles?”  The nobleman raised his head to appeal to the prince, but his bloodshot and dilated eyes gave evidence of his hedonistic pastime he’d been involved with when the knights arrested him.

The crown prince frowned and one of the knights slapped the back of the nobleman’s head.

“My knights and I do not take kindly to anyone insulting the future queen.  We are not here to listen to your mouth spilling foul lies into the air. We are here to listen to your crimes.”

“What crimes, your highness?  Even you can’t accuse others without evidence.  This is tyranny!  How are you fit to rule our country if you take the word of a common wench rather than the word of your loyal supporters?”

Cinderella sighed at his continued acting.  She waved a hand and Trouble, the orphan she and the prince had been using as a messenger stepped forward.  He looked quite spiffy and official in a page’s uniform.  He handed her a stack of reports, collected by both the merchants and the royal intelligence agents.  She briefly looked through them to confirm the information before handing it to the prince, who did the same.

“My loyal supporter, hmm?  I’m not sure I want such a loyal supporter who conspires with foreign countries to undermine the economic stability of our country.”

With this statement, the prince handed the top report to the prime minister, who read through it with an increasingly severe frown and a flush of anger that rose from beneath his collar.

“This sack of useless meat!  No, you’re not even fit for dog meat. You are pure poison and waste material!”  The prime minister loosened his cravat, and several of the younger nobles who served as aides to the prime minister backed away instinctively.  It was never a good sign when the prime minister lost his composure.

The Marquess of Larkhas, the general for the western army, reached over and snatched the report out of the prime minister’s hands.  He glanced through it and then passed the paper off to the Earl of Warde, the general for the southern army.

Cinderella saw that both of the generals unconsciously reached for their swords, which thankfully were not a part of their formal attire for balls.  Otherwise the traitor would not live to give the rest of his testimony in front of the nobles.  Cinderella looked up and caught the crown prince’s eyes.  She nodded, indicating it was time to move to the next step.

“Marquess Andrew, you are accused of conspiring with [foreign country]’s ambassador to bring in the illegal drug, [name].  You not only have purposely lied to the crown, but you have actively sought to ignore tariffs on other goods, thereby avoiding your tax payments.  Taxes are used to secure the health, education, and safety of the common people.  As the daughter of a merchant, I can tell you first-hand that the commoners are directly impacted by your actions.  The drugs you imported have caused many of our people to become addicted, to lose their jobs, their homes, and even their lives.  The loss of a stable working force then affects the rest of the economy.  Rising prices for necessary goods have caused it to become increasingly difficult for the normal citizen to feed their families.”

Cinderella quickly outlined the offenses against the common man.  As she spoke, many of the nobles in the room had a disinterested look on their faces.  Seeing this, she raised her voice as she looked directly at those bored nobles.

“These are the people that you, as a noble, have a duty to protect.  This is in the oath that you took when you inherited your noble title.  And any aristocrat who has failed their people does not deserve their title.”

With these statements, and the crown prince’s nod of agreement, several of the nobles who had been disinterested, suddenly paid more attention.  If the crown prince was planning a purge of the aristocrats who did not support him, they had best be on the winning side.  And since the crown prince and Cinderella had evidence which would allow them to strip nobles of their titles, they had best choose wisely.

Some of the nobles who did not usually play political games were confused at first, while others immediately saw the light.  They started whispering condemnations of the traitor to their neighbors, making sure that others who were nearby “accidentally” heard them.

“You snake wench!  Seducing the crown prince and feeding him lies!  How could anyone possibly believe you, a merchant who wants to grab hold of the kingdom’s wealth?  Besides, there’s no way you could have possibly made as much money as you claim to have without some illegal means.” Marquess Andrew’s mouth was foaming from the amount of anger and anxiety building up inside him.

“Just because you have to resort to illegal means to make money doesn’t mean I have to,” Cinderella said with disdain.

The prince wrapped his hand around her waist and beamed with pride.

“My future wife is amazing.  She saw an opportunity on the market and built the brand {company name].  How many of you here tonight have purchased something from her either for yourself or as a gift?” 

Many of the noble ladies glanced at Cinderella with sharp and greedy eyes.  She suddenly became a much more desirable person to know. The business owner of a luxury brand of cosmetics and expensive soaps was a person worth knowing.  Every noblewoman wanted to be beautiful, and the products Cinderella had introduced into the market made many of the ladies green with envy when their rivals were able to make purchases before them.

“She doesn’t need the kingdom’s money because she can make her own.  And unlike you, she has been properly paying taxes and giving charitable donations.”  The prince sneered at Marquess Andrew.

“But that witch is evil!  She is a bringer of bad luck!  Her parents died one after another after she was born, and her father’s trading company began losing money as soon as she took it over!”  He tried to protest, and a few of the superstitious nobles drew back a step, as if they might catch bad luck by simply being in her proximity.

“My mother passed away of illness when I was a child, yes.  My father died under suspicious circumstances, but we will get to that in a bit, Marquess, because I have several things to say to you about your part in his death.”  She glared at him, and several of the nobles who worked in the justice department looked interested.

“And as for my father’s company being run into the ground, I’m afraid you can lay that at the feet of my stepmother, who refused to allow me to inherit the company even though she had no idea how to run a company and continued to spend an excessive amount of money, despite the advice of experienced merchants,” Cinderella looked up as she said this, meeting the eyes of her stepmother.

Lady Ingram looked away, only to realize the nobles around her were drawing back, afraid of meeting with the wrath of Cinderella, the future queen. 

“I have no idea what you are talking about, dear daughter.  We both know you have always been in charge of things at the estate,” Lady Ingram unfurled her fan and attempted to hide part of her face with it, as if it could make this scandal go away.

The crown prince sneered again, and handed the next report to the prime minister.  This report included the confessions of the hitman who had been hired to kill not only Cinderella’s father, but Lady Ingram’s first husband and lovers.  As the prime minister read the report, with several of the justice department officers reading it over his shoulder in curiosity, the two knights who escorted Marquess Andrew in approached Lady Ingram.

“What are you doing?” she cried in a strident voice. “How dare you manhandle me!”

Cinderella’s stepsisters attempted to stop the knights, but they were rebuffed without any mercy.  They turned to the nobles around them, including the young ladies who were their friends, but they were met with eyes filled with alienation and disdain.  While the young ladies weren’t sure of what Lady Ingram had done, they could read the room and knew that any further association with these two ladies would be a detriment to their own future.

“Lady Beatrice Ingram, you are to be arrested for committing the crimes of theft, marriage fraud, murder by hire, and conspiracy to commit treason.” 

The prime minister read off the crimes on the report, setting off gasps of shock around the room from the ladies who had not expected the crimes to be so serious.  Even the men raised their eyebrows over the latter two crimes.  The Marquess’s charges soon followed.

“Marquess Germaine Andrew, you are to be arrested for committing the crimes of murder by hire, conspiring with foreign agents, and treason.” 

“The punishment for treason is execution, and the both of you will face a swift judgement,” the crown prince declared.

“You can’t do this! You aren’t the king, so you cannot serve as the highest judge! You don’t have the authority!”

“Too bad for you, but I have already informed His Majesty of your actions and received permission to pass on his judgement.  Germaine Andrew and is to be stripped of his noble title.  He and his family members are now commoners, and their estates and properties are to be confiscated immediately by the crown. 

“Unpaid taxes will be rectified with the funds confiscated, and the left-over money will be used to compensate the families of those harmed by his illegal drug importation scheme.  Any money left unclaimed will be used to set up a charity to help those who seek to become free of drug addiction.

“Germaine Andrew is sentenced to execution by hanging three days hence due to contracting multiple murders, as well as crimes against the people and the crown, all of which carry the death penalty.”

The crown prince turned to Lady Ingram.

“Beatrice Ingram is also to be stripped of her noble title.  You and your daughters are also now commoners.  The estate and all of the properties you have been withholding will immediately be turned over to the rightful heir, Cinderella. 

Beatrice Ingram is sentenced to execution by hanging three days hence for her part in contracting multiple murders and assisting Germaine Andrew in his crimes against the people and the crown, all of which carry the death penalty.”

He then turned to the stepsisters, who were cowering in the crowd.

“I didn’t forget you two, either.  For your part in spending money stolen from the estate, you two will be sentenced to a life of labor to repay the debt you owe to Cinderella.”

Sobs and wails filled the room as the three ladies finally comprehended what was happening.  Germaine Andrew began cursing again, and the nearby knight took great pleasure in smacking him on the head again before beginning to drag him out of the ballroom.

“Would you grant me the pleasure of having your company for a dance, my dear?” the crown prince said while bowing to Cinderella.  She took his hand with a smile. 

The band, taking their signal, hurried to start playing a waltz as the couple walked to the center of the ballroom.

“Was it entertaining?” Cinderella asked her black-hearted prince, who was still snickering under his breath.

“Of course,” he replied.  “It is always entertaining to see such scum brought low.”

“Now we can focus on the next bit of scum,” Cinderella said as she spied the ambassador from Ruther, the country which had contacted Germaine Andrew and arranged for the sale of illegal drugs across the border.

“Indeed.  I am so happy I found you, Cinderella.” 

“Why?  Because I provide you with endless entertainment?”

“Exactly. We make a wonderful team.  We find all the evidence we need between the two of us and then we can smash them into the dirt, ruin their pride, and erase their very existences.”

Cinderella smiled as he twirled her around the ballroom.

“Yes, we do make a wonderfully evil pair, don’t we.”

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

August 31st, 2020

When was the happiest day of your MCs lives?

Merrick’s first “happiest day” is when he realizes that he can use magic, which is something he has spent years wishing for.  On the same day, he gains a mentor, someone who is willing to teach him how to use his magic and how to hide it from those who would try to hurt him.  Additionally, he gains a familiar, a creature who will be by his side for the rest of his life and is willing to call him family, something that he has never had.

Cinderella’s “happiest day” is when she is finally able to take control of her father’s estate and business, reveal her stepmother’s crimes, and aid in the capture and arrest of a traitor to the crown. 

This was the last of the August 2020 Writing Challenge, which was created by @ryan.ewing.writing on Instagram. I thoroughly enjoyed using these prompts to get to know my characters more. And I hope you enjoyed reading snippets of my stories and characters.

Make sure to check out some of my other responses, as well as the two sets of prompts for the month of September.

September 2020 Writing Challenge Prompts will be live on 8/31/2020 at 6:30 PM Eastern.

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